St. Thomas

St. John



Published: May 16, 2024

ST. CROIX – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ Committee on Education and Workforce Development, led by Senator Marise C. James met in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room.  Lawmakers received a status update from various education stakeholders in the territory, regarding their organization’s role in the workforce development system in the Virgin Islands, specifically addressing recruitment and retention of employees, employment opportunities in the Virgin Islands Government, workforce development programs and the services provided to help people find, prepare for, and maintain employment.

Senator James voiced the importance of the matter, particularly as it pertained to the status of the territory’s children. “If 40% of our children live in poverty, their parents live in poverty.”

Gary Molloy, Commissioner of the Department of Labor stated that the Virgin Islands State Workforce Development Board is responsible for determining policy and the target industries in the territory. The Department builds the territory’s pipeline through workforce development programs that focus on target industries funded through a combination of local and federal funds. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 reinforced the role of state and local force boards in workforce development and stressed the importance of cooperation among stakeholders in the workforce system. The Workforce Development System encompasses the US Virgin Islands American Job Center (AJC), which includes the one stop operator, Equus Workforce Solution. Recently enacted legislation impacted the workforce system, including Act No. 5174 which mandates that all employers in the territory post all job vacancies with VIDOL, Act 8209, which implements the payroll Variation Methodology, and Act 8227, which entails the change in unemployment insurance maximum number of weeks from the current 26 to 16 weeks.

Micheal Carty, Chairman of the VI Workforce Development Board stated that the VI Workforce Development Board offers a broad spectrum of training programs, ranging from healthcare to information technology and skilled trades to customer service. The board has twenty approved eligible training providers.  Carty stated that there were numerous challenges, including labor market challenges, such as a population decline, which leads to a shrinking workforce pool, high unemployment rates, natural disasters and economic shocks like hurricanes and the closure of the Limetree Bay Terminals, skills gaps, including misalignment between education outcomes and labor market demands. However, Carty stated that there were numerous opportunities such as emerging industry growth, such as those in healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and financial services showing strong growth protentional, the potential for remote work, leveraging digital infrastructure and the ability to attract remote workers and businesses, and the resilience of the local workforce, despite the numerous disruptions.

Joann Murphy, Chairperson of the VICTEC Board stated that the board currently lacked the power to enforce the provisions given to them by statute. She stated that the Board recognized the importance of establishing and overseeing CTE Schools. Murphy stated due to current challenges, its ability to fully execute its mandate is limited, but remains committed to working within its means to improve CTE programs and services in the US Virgin Islands. Murphy recommended that an overhaul of CTE hours is needed to allow students to be integrated into the workforce in the morning and attend academic classes into the afternoon. She stated that this might require a modification of the current two-year programs. She recommended that the current law be updated and called for additional funding for the programs.

Cindy Richardson, Director of the Division of Personnel, detailed the many ways it assisted with the efforts.  There have been two major recruitment programs, such as the US Army Partnership for Success Program, and the Reentering Retirees Program. The division created 215 job descriptions. There are 163 vacancies posted on the DOP website, with 73 in St Croix, 60 in St. Thomas and 1 on St. John, with 29 territorial vacancies. The division has participated in numerous career and recruitment fairs in the territory.  There have been 1,779 regular training topics for the fiscal year 2024.

Separately, Bill No. 35-0240, An Act transferring the administration of the Government Insurance Fund from the Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Finance to the Commissioner of Virgin Islands Department of Labor and amending various sections of title 24 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 11 to facilitate better recovery for injury or disease that arises out of and in the course of employment in the Virgin Islands under the Workers’ Compensation Administration, and to ensure that workers entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits receive medical coverage, rehabilitation services, and disability compensation without undue delay by merging the benefits and payment components of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program, was removed from the agenda.

Senators present at today’s Committee meeting included Marise C. James, Diane T. Capehart, Dwayne M. Degraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, and Carla J. Joseph.

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May 2024

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